Recorded for the ASV label in 1990, this collection of Ravel’s piano music has never previously been released complete. Now reissued for the first time in more than a decade, this set presents not the kind of coolly objective view of the fastidious composer-craftsman to which modern recordings have made us accustomed but more of a poet in sound and in touch with his Basque origins.
The piano, for Ravel, was the principal medium of musical thought and his approach to the instrument was at once lavish and precise. Lisztian virtuosity is entwined with an antique spirit of French dance in both the darkly Impressionist ‘Gaspard de la nuit’ and the much gentler strains of the ‘Valses nobles et sentimentales’. Likewise J’eux d’eau’ takes its inspiration from a Lisztian template while ‘Le tombeau de Couperin’ pays deeply affectionate tribute both to friends killed in the First World War and to an imagined Eden of formal manners and gentility, presumed lost forever.
Although his repertoire ranges from Bach to Webern, Gordon Fergus-Thompson has won particular renown as a Franco-Russian specialist in command of the most technically challenging repertoire by the likes of Balakirev. Following the reissue of his complete Scriabin recordings as well as his renowned Debussy, Eloquence brings back another pair of albums which finds the pianist in his element: rhythmically free yet in complete control of Ravel’s fastidiously exacting scores; timbrally refined yet abandoned to the Viennese excess of ‘La valse’ as well as the blurred, dream-like moods of the ‘Miroirs‘.
Complete Music for Solo Piano
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, M.61
Gaspard de la Nuit, M.55
Le Tombeau de Couperin, M.68
Menuet sur le nom de Haydn
À la manière de… Borodine
À la manière de… Chabrier
Pavane pour une infant défunte
Gordon Fergus-Thompson, piano
Recording Producer: Alexander Waugh
Balance Engineer: Martin Haskell
Recording Location: All Saints Church, Petersham, London, UK, 1990
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
‘Fergus-Thompson sounds sparkier and freer, with a gentler flow of tone and more space in the recording … There’s no problem, at least, about brilliance of effect. The finale of the Sonatine finds more vigour and purpose, and some of the minor pieces have an attractive light touch.’
BBC Music Magazine
‘Fergus-Thompson […] confirms his calibre and status as a distinguished, most individual Francophile … Even the most experienced Ravelians will find themselves returning to these finely recorded accounts for a special and magical enlightenment.’ Gramophone, October 1993